The Hunger Games: A Book of Our Times

After so much hype surrounding the books and the movie, it’s hard to find something to say about The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, that hasn’t been said before.  The book seems like it is everywhere, from the highly successful movie to the nail polish series by China Glaze. I will say, that I don’t believe the hype is unfounded. Collins had a brilliant and innovative idea, which she followed through with strong character development and very tight writing.

The novel has come in my mind to define dystopia. I don’t want to ruin the plot, but here is the teaser from Amazon:

Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games.” The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat’s sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.  

I know it sounds strange and gruesome, in a way that I probably wouldn’t have touched it while in high school, but it is one of the most compelling books I’ve ever read. It almost makes you keep reading.  Even on this second reading of the book, where I knew what was going to happen there was suspense that led me to finish the book in one sitting.

Stars of The Hunger Games film sign copies of the book.

What strikes me in the aftermath of rereading Hunger Games, is its status as a book of our times. Perhaps more than any other book I’ve read, certainly in the science fiction or fantasy genre, it is a book that I believe could only have been written and gained such prolific popularity now, in this specific point in history and culture. The idea of reality TV is essential to the plot, and the powerful theme of exploitation, in the book, however the connection to the present day goes beyond this.

The book emphasizes a social critique of a social structure where the few experience gluttony of excess wealth at the expense of the majority of people. Although Collins invented this world before the occupy movement and the term “one percent” entered our consciousness the concept and reality of unequal wealth distribution was prevalent. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Panem is a future version of the United States.

I think where this book really succeeds is that it does everything a good book should do. It has romance and action, strong themes and symbolism, relatable and fantasy, and most of all tension and suspense. Even as I’m writing this I keep thinking of more: politics, humor, fashion! I think that the best thing about series like Hunger Games is that it is making reading viral, with both adults and children that wouldn’t pick up a book otherwise. I have yet to meet someone who could put this book down once they started it, especially once they get to the actual games. And I’ve actually yet to meet someone who took the time to read it and didn’t like it. I really couldn’t recommend it more strongly.

For further reading and reviews:

Movie Posters as Book Covers

From Twilight to Pride and Prejudice, books that have been made into movies have the movie poster replace the book cover. Usually, I am against owning these. I don’t want everyone to think that I am just reading a book because Anne Hathaway is on the cover. I usually like to read the book before the movie.

With me using eBooks more and more (thus eliminating this problem) books that I buy in paper form have become even more about how they look on the bookshelf…or about how they won’t electrocute me if I drop them in the bathtub. Anyways, it seems like a shame to get rid of the beautiful cover art that has been created with the book in mind. Even the classic penguin covers have an appeal that outweighs Hollywood celebrity.

I think this is a pretty common opinion, but I also know that sometimes I take the cover of a book a little too seriously. My mother, who will probably be the first person to read this post, will remember a trip to Barnes and Noble when I spent almost 20 minutes deciding which copy of The Portable Dorothy Parker. I was probably close to tears as I told her, “I just am so tired of making decisions.” I ended up picking this one, in case you were wondering. Pretty, right?

However, with the seeds of this blog post in my mind, last week at the library I ended up checking a book out almost solely because of the cover. It was Inventing the Abbots, by Sue Miller. While I can, perhaps legitimately claim, that I picked the book up out of a curiosity about my former professor. But that would be a false claim, I’ve had 2 years without expressing the curiosity, and there are more well-known and critically acclaimed works I could have chosen.

No, I picked it up because I saw Liv Tyler and Joaquin Phoenix falling over a car seat and thought “Oh my goodness, there is that movie I used to watch on Lifetime when I was home from school sick.” Now, I’m not sure if I need to rethink my former opinions.

What do you think? Are you more or less likely to read a book with a movie poster for a cover?

Links for a Lazy Monday

Sunday got so lazy that the links post got pushed to Monday. Alison L and I planned to keep the Hunger Games Magic going with our first review of the series. Unfortunately, her computer, complete with finished review, is on the fritz (and she had a pretty important birthday to celebrate yesterday), and I spent the week battling a cold and then had a bachelorette party this weekend…and my mindset the morning after wasn’t up for much, let alone writing something semi interesting about one of my favorite series. Apologies. To make it up to you, I put together some of my favorite things I’ve found bouncing around the internet lately.

#WhatShouldWeCallMe is my new favorite tumblr of all time. My sister showed me a few of their memes a month ago, which made me literally laugh out loud. Yesterday I found myself looking through pages and pages of their witty and pop culturally relevant posts. It is also where I discovered this startling fact about the movie Aladdin.

I also loved seeing the photos of this Hunger Games themed wedding on Green Wedding Shoes. Although, I think it takes fandom to a new level, it was done in a classy and subtle way. While looking up the link, I saw another wedding shoot with a Hunger Games theme. Is this going to become a new trend? Will it be like the Twilight engagement rings?

If you are having Downton Abbey withdrawals, like me, you need to check out A Very Carson Christmas and The Fresh Prince of Downton Abbey. Both will make you almost pee in your pants they are so funny. I also liked these Maggie Smith moments and this boyfriend’s guide to the show. 

I also was intrigued this post on the jealous curator on jane mount. I don’t know what books would be on my ideal bookshelf, but I’m glad I will hopefully never have to narrow them down. And I chuckled at this cartoon on NYT.